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The World Cup of Hockey cut the ribbon for hockey season, and now it’s time for the NHL to start. On Wednesday, the puck drops for the 2016-17 campaign with four games on schedule, including the Stanley Cup favourites – the Chicago Blackhawks, who will face the St. Louis Blues.

 

The Favourites

The Chicago Blackhawks are +750 favourites to win it all. They’ve been a perennial contender over the last eight seasons. In that span, they’ve made the playoffs every year, won the Cup three times and made it to the Conference Final another two times. The core is intact with centre Jonathan Toews, right wing Patrick Kane, defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, and netminder Corey Crawford. Last season's first-round exit at the hands of the St. Louis Blues was the first time in four seasons they didn't make it to the Conference Finals.

While the Blackhawks are the favourites in the Western Conference, the Pittsburgh Penguins (+1000), Washington Capitals (+1000) and Tampa Bay Lightning (+1000) are the top Eastern teams. The Penguins will defend their title and are expected to contend once again, but are starting the season without their captain, Sidney Crosby, who sustained a concussion during practice. There’s no scheduled return date as we go to press.

Washington is coming off an incredible regular season, finishing with the most points in the NHL (120). However, postseason success continues to elude the Capitals. Meanwhile, the Lightning have made it to the Eastern Conference Finals or beyond in the last two seasons and now that they’ve re-signed four-time All-Star Steven Stamkos to an eight-year extension, they’re loaded for a run once again.

 

The Sleepers

Next in line are two Western Conference teams: The Dallas Stars (+1200) and St. Louis Blues (+1400). The Stars won the Central Division and the Western Conference last season, finishing with a 50-23-9 record. Their strength lays in their offense, with the team leading the league in goals (265) last season. Their success depends on their goaltenders, Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi, who lacked consistency last season.

As for the Blues, they took out the Blackhawks and Stars in the playoffs and are stacked up front and on the blue line. Like the Stars, the Blues’ big question is in goal. Jake Allen has taken the reigns from Brian Elliott, who was traded to the Calgary Flames.

The Anaheim Ducks, Nashville Predators, Florida Panthers and San Jose Sharks are all +1600 to win the Cup. This is a massive year for the Ducks. They've won four straight Pacific Division titles, but made a first-round exit at the hands of the Predators last postseason. The Ducks fired coach Bruce Boudreau and went back to Randy Carlyle, who won the Stanley Cup in Anaheim in 2007.

The +1600 odds is great value for the Sharks, who made it to the Cup Final last season after not qualifying for the playoffs the year before. They’ve got a lot of confidence and momentum to ride into this season, on top of Brent Burns racking up the most points of any defenseman in last season’s playoffs.

 

Stanley Cup Long Shots

If you prefer value picks over chalk for your long-term bets, check out the 20 remaining teams.

Los Angeles Kings +1800
Minnesota Wild +2500
New York Rangers +2500
Detroit Red Wings +2500
New York Islanders +2500
Boston Bruins +2500
Montreal Canadiens +2500
Philadelphia Flyers +3300
Edmonton Oilers +3300
New Jersey Devils +5000
Colorado Avalanche +5000
Calgary Flames +5000
Ottawa Senators +5000
Winnipeg Jets +5000
Toronto Maple Leafs +5000
Buffalo Sabres +5000
Arizona Coyotes +6600
Carolina Hurricanes +6600
Columbus Blue Jackets +6600
Vancouver Canucks +6600

 

*Odds as of October 11, 2016